During the regular season, the Closer Hot Seat will be your go-to guide for Major League Baseball's bullpen chatter. During spring training, KFFL's Fantasy Baseball Bullpen Session will get you tuned up for the fantasy baseball saves chase. Camp happenings don't always impact closer battles, but if there's MLB news you should know for your fantasy baseball draft, you'll find it here.
Andrew Bailey has sustained a thumb injury that'll be examined Monday; his last appearance came in a minor league game Wednesday. Bailey's status for the Boston Red Sox's opening day is in doubt; Mark Melancon already told the Boston Herald that the stopper won't be available for the opener.
Bailey's history of injuries and slow healing hardly makes his owners confident in this latest development. Still, any DL stint would be backdated to March 26, which, with a favorable diagnosis and smooth recovery, could leave him eligible to return on April 10; little harm done, perhaps, but you shouldn't take any Bailey injury lightly.
Parnell getting a grip
Melancon and Alfredo Aceves, who lost out on a rotation gig but was mentioned by Bobby Valentine as a late-inning stopgap, would be options to fill the void. Aceves, however, may have to make a spot start or two in place of Josh Beckett, who's also nursing a thumb ding.
Considering Aceves' role flexibility, Melancon's skills make more sense as a replacement and fantasy target. He performed admirably as Houston Astros closer last year. Still, Boston likes Aceves' stuff, which has typically played better over 105 bullpen appearances than in his nine career starts.
This is a tricky one for waiver wire scourers. Adding both is the safest course, but it'll be difficult in most cases. All things equal, the choice should be Melancon, but if Beckett doesn't need to sit out or Boston opts for another SP replacement, expect Boston to lean Aceves.
Robin Ventura said he hasn't yet decided on a closer. The Chicago White Sox skipper said he hopes to reveal his decision "when we're winning in the ninth in the first game." He added Hector Santiago's name to the existing list of Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Addison Reed. Thornton is the best bet to take the job initially, but Santiago's recent momentum keeps him as a long-term dark horse.
The New York Mets are sending struggling RP Frank Francisco for an MRI Monday afternoon on his swollen left knee. He had it drained earlier in the day, when he also participated in long toss. Knee issues probably have contributed to the issues he has had this spring, especially with his velocity.
Frank Frank doesn't think he'll wind up on the DL, but be prepared. We've heard the brittle right-hander's song and dance before.
This spring, Bobby Parnell has stood out among Mets arms. He can credit his spring revival to implementing advice from Sandy Koufax and incorporating an effective knuckle curve. Though he could find his way there, the Mets appear reluctant to hand Parnell another shot at closer duties. A potential job as multiple-innings insurance (in place of SP Johan Santana?) obstructs the tweener's path to saves.
Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez look like New York's primary choices. The sinkerballer Ramirez carries solid dominance (he improved his whiff and grounder inducement last year) and has chipped in for a few saves in each of the last few years.
Rauch has hardly been a stable backup and has botched just about every long-term opportunity handed to him, but he has more savior experience, and that'd probably be enough to warrant a shot out of the gate, both from Terry Collins and fantasy owners.
Aroldis Chapman will pitch out of the bullpen for the Cincinnati Reds, despite his promising March campaign for a rotation spot. This puts him second in line for saves in this possible committee.
Sean Marshall leads the way. The resurgent Jose Arredondo is a sleeper.
Presumptive closer Jim Johnson pitched on Friday and Saturday, his first back-to-back stretch this spring. The Baltimore Orioles' righty, who's still rounding into form after back issues, was clocked at 94 and 95 mph while forcing two groundouts, recording a K and walking a batter.
Since his rough one-inning, three-run March debut, Johnson has yielded the same number of tallies over seven innings with four K's, three hits and - ugh - six walks. Expect his walk rate to take a hit as he tries to find a groove early in the season.
Kansas City Royals skipper Ned Yost isn't rushing to name a single replacement for Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery) among the group of Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland and Aaron Crow.
Yost told reporters Broxton will likely be limited to one-inning outings and probably won't pitch on more than two consecutive days. It caps his immediate contributions, but this is probably part of an increased monitoring of the entire bullpen. Heavy IP totals eventually hindered some KC RPs last year.
Grabbing a piece of this arrangement could pay off, relative to investment. The recommended order, for now: Broxton, Holland, Crow. Additional arms, like the talented Kelvin Herrera and Louis Coleman, could eventually sneak into the picture if the initial three can't sort it out.
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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